Ashtavakra Samhita, Chapter 2, Verse 16


Translation and Commentary by Jayaram V


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Verse 16

dvaithamulamaho duhkham nanyatthasyaasthi bheshajam
drishyamethan mrisha sarvam ekoaham chidrasomalah


Oh, the duality is the root cause of sorrow. For that there is no better remedy except the realization that all that is seen is unreal, and that I am the one, pure, blissful consciousness.


Overcoming the suffering caused by duality

The Buddha declared that desire was the root cause of suffering. The Bhagavadgita suggests that desires arise because of the activity of the senses which in turn lead to delusion and suffering. In this verse, we learn that duality is at the root of suffering. Although Ashtavakra seems to suggest a different cause, in reality they all point to the same philosophy.

Desires are the root cause of suffering. However, they also create duality and craving, which in turn lead to suffering. The movement of senses among the sense objects results in the duality of subject and object which in turn create attraction and aversion, and attachments. Attraction and aversion are born from what the Buddha called craving or clinging. It is otherwise known as attachment. We cling to things, and in that clinging we experience loss and gain, separation and union. Desires cannot exist unless there is the duality of subject and object, attraction and aversion, enjoyer and enjoyed.

Why do we seek things?

If you are the only person in the whole universe, if there is nothing else and if you are complete in all respects, you will not desire anything because you do not need anything or depend upon anything. It is the state of the Self or of God. When that Self is pushed into Samsara and when it is lost in the sensory world, it becomes subject to duality and experiences attraction and aversion to the pairs of opposites. In spirituality, it is considered suffering (dukham).

Indeed, we seek things because we want to become complete. It is the yearning of the soul in a state of delusion to be complete. Unfortunately, it is not the right way to experience completeness or fulfillment, because it can never be accomplished by possessing things that are incomplete, imperfect and unreal in themselves.

Until you become one with all that you desire or experience through your senses, you cannot be complete, and your craving will not end. Hence, the seers seek the vision of oneness, or the idea that “I am all this." When that becomes real, what else you will need? You will be like God. You will be one with the world and with all that you experience oneness. You feel the joys and sorrows of all the people you meet and you will experience alike their poverty and abundance, without fear, envy, pride or anger.

When you are one with everything, you do not seek anything. When you are empty like space, you can enter anyone’s space and be one with it. This is the state of oneness which the seers aim to achieve through liberation. However, that state should be real without the constructs and conceptualization of the mind for the experience to be real. Otherwise, the duality will remain, and oneness will be a mere self-induced delusion.

The ego and the Self

Duality and suffering are natural to ego consciousness, which is subject to limitations, impurities, ignorance, and desires. The Self is not subject to any of them. Hence, it is one, indivisible, indestructible, free from suffering, and blissful in itself. It is important to draw the distinction between the Self and the ego. Although in many descriptions both are called aham (self-sense), they are not the same.

The ego is the projected aham. The Self is the universal, indivisible aham. Unlike the ego consciousness which we call the perceptual mind, it is pure, transcendental, without duality and divisions. Thus, the ego is a formation, created by your desires, perceptions, memories, cravings, modes, karma and attachments, whereas the Self is uncreated, self-existing, eternal and infinite. Since the ego is a formation or a temporary construct or encrustation on the Self, it is known as ahamkar (the formatted self).

The solution to suffering

Two remedies are suggested in this verse to overcome the suffering which is caused by duality. One is the realization that all that you perceive here is unreal, and the second one is the knowledge that you are one pure blissful consciousness. In the state of duality, we are subject to attraction and aversion or likes and dislikes, which results in attachments whereby we experience pain and suffering when we are separated from what we like, or united with what we dislike.

The solution to it is the realization that both conditions are false or part of an illusion. When that idea is firmly implanted in our minds, we develop distaste for both, become either indifferent to them or equal to them and turn our attention to what is real, fixed and not subject to duality. That reality is represented by the Self, which is one because it indivisible and has no otherness or opposite, and which is pure consciousness because it is free from the influence of gunas, egoism, desires, delusion and ignorance.

The realization must be real

The knowledge that all that you perceive in the objective world is unreal does not arise from mental affirmation or intellectual learning. It may help you withdraw your mind and senses and become interested in spiritual practice. If it is the case everyone would succeed in becoming a yogi and attaining liberation. To realize the first truth that this world is an illusion, you must realize the second, by dissolving your mind in the Self and entering its transcendental state. For that you must discipline your mind and stops its habitual movements.

It is normal for people to cry or feel disturbed when something goes wrong. It is a habit, which needs to be overcome so that the mind does not react to the pairs of opposites or the dualities.  When you attain that, you will not have to make an effort to convince yourself that the world is a projection or an illusion. From that perspective and in that exalted state of yoga, the oneness of existence becomes self-evident to you and all your doubts and questions will disappear

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